Planning for a People-First Government: Structuring Equitable Policy

Three new briefs provide policymakers with the tools to create a more equitable and sustainable economy

Over the past 50 years, federal policies have affirmatively left planning around critical infrastructure to market actors. This has led to perverse results that too often work against the public’s long-term interests, undermining equity, democracy, and sustainability. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

As Congress debates the infrastructure investments needed to address the long-brewing and daunting crises facing our nation (including growing economic inequality and climate change), they must focus on both the scale and the structure of funding—how much is spent, how it’s spent, and who decides where and how to spend it. 

To support this progressive approach to policy, a new trio of briefs released by the Roosevelt Institute shows that a failure to put the American people first has undermined equity and democracy and made our economy less resilient. Though they examine very different pieces of our economy—retirement investments, industrial policy, and childcare—each brief arrives at a similar conclusion: To address our nation’s most urgent problems, we must deepen the public’s role in planning and oversight.  

  • Industrial Policy and Planning: A New (Old) Approach to Policymaking for a New Era,” by Todd N. Tucker, Roosevelt Institute director, governance studies and Steph Sterling, Roosevelt Institute vice president and senior advisor suggests that the US’s ad hoc approach to industrial policy prevents adequate solutions to crises like climate change. To move forward effectively, we must deliberately plan for the growth of certain industries, as many of our competitors and allies already do. But, unlike other nations, we must craft an approach to planning that centers democratic governance. 
  • “The Potential Benefits of a Public Asset Manager, by Lenore Palladino, Roosevelt Institute fellow and Chirag Lala, PhD candidate in economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, explores the power that asset managers—the private companies that act as fiduciaries for household investors—have in the economy. Palladino and Lala argue a public asset manager would reshape the market, by creating a democratically controlled alternative to these market-based fiduciaries that could take a more holistic view of household interests and spur broad change among private asset managers.
  • “Supply-Side Childcare Investments: Policies to Develop an Equitable and Stable Childcare Industry,” by Suzanne Kahn, Roosevelt Institute managing director, research and policy and Steph Sterling shows that leaving the provision of childcare up to the market has left American families with limited and unaffordable options. As the country contemplates a significant new federal investment in the childcare system, Kahn and Sterling argue that the investment should include guardrails to counter the corporate extraction we have seen in many other industries. New federal investments should proactively promote democratic control of childcare.

“These briefs are about more than just three progressive policies. They are a reminder to policymakers that to create long-lasting change for all Americans, we must rewrite the rules of our economy—to make our society fairer, more inclusive, and to ensure that women and people of color have the dignity, power, and equality they deserve,” said Kahn. 

Read more about the briefs in Kahn’s foreword, “Planning for the Public Good: How to Structure More Equitable and Sustainable Investments.

About the Roosevelt Institute

The Roosevelt Institute is a think tank, a student network, and the nonprofit partner to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum that, together, are learning from the past and working to redefine the future of the American economy. Focusing on corporate and public power, labor and wages, and the economics of race and gender inequality, the Roosevelt Institute unifies experts, invests in young leaders, and advances progressive policies that bring the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor into the 21st century.

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